While working remotely has plenty of skeptics, its perks are hard to ignore: flexible hours, no commute, and the comforts of a less formal office environment. Many people who work remotely have found that, with a little discipline and planning, their productivity can go through the roof.
But among the handful of reasons some companies remain distrustful of flexible work policies is the risks they can pose to company culture. It isn’t impossible to stay connected by any means, but it can be a real challenge. That’s because work cultures aren’t sustained just by work-related communication. They’re also built on subtler, unplanned social interactions. Remote teams can’t replicate that (and they shouldn’t try to), but there are some other simple steps to take that can keep your culture strong when you aren’t all in the same place at the same time.
Internal communication is one of the biggest problems for just about every company under the sun. More often than not, it’s the underlying cause of other issues, and solving it can be tricky. It’s the proliferation of communications tools that’s made working remotely possible in the first place, and we now have more of them to choose from than ever before.
But all that choice poses a challenge in its own right. It goes without saying that when you’re working remotely, communication channels have to be clear, immediate, and consistently used. And while many of them meet that criteria, some remote teams may actually find that more is not necessarily better.
Centralizing communication on a single platform forces everyone you work with into a single (virtual) space, streamlining messaging in a way that ultimately reduces stress, increases comfort, and makes being a part of the team a whole lot easier–all of which helps keep work culture strong and cohesive.
“Technology reduces communication barriers for organizations, especially when the workforce is spread across multiple regions,” says Daniel Bliley, director of marketing at Passport. “However, it’s extremely important to have one communication hub for everyone to stay on the same page. Different tools create silos that can even impact onsite employees,” he tells me. “Centralizing communication is a vital component for success and even more beneficial for the remote worker.”
What about everyday chatter? Working remotely, it’s far too common to talk with only those with whom you work closely, and even then, it’s seldom remote workers take time for the same level and depth of informal conversations that take place in a physical office.
While it’s not strictly necessary to venture outside your immediate team, making an effort to reach out to other remote workers can heal some of the damage that little or no physical proximity can do to company culture. Instead, chat with everyone. Ask how their day is going. These conversations don’t have to be lengthy, intense discussions. It’s just a matter of maintaining friendly relationships–which takes practice to do properly by digital means, but it can keep everyone feeling looped in.
A less obvious but surprisingly helpful tip is to work similar schedule hours as other team members. That may seem to defeat the purpose of remote work and the flexible hours it enables. And for teams spread across many time zones, it isn’t always possible. But some core overlap is useful if you can find it. The key is to get every team member involved in a general, shared routine.
A synced-up team is the basis of any great company culture, and it’s one of the most common and avoidable issues that remote teams face. There are variances between people, but strong culture comes not just from being comfortable at work, but being on the same page as your colleagues. Working remotely doesn’t disqualify anyone from either–it’s just a matter of finding the right balance.